How we organize our project management work at diesdas

Let’s talk about tools.

Lorenz Seeger
May 4, 2020 · 6 min read

In a previous post I talked about how we do project management at diesdas. In this post I want to continue by shining a light at what kind of software we use and how we actually organize our work.

Software is always a critical topic because it’s very subjective. Just because I like to work with Basecamp doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else in my company does too. All of our brains tick a little different when it comes to structuring mess. Some need the mess to be creative others need task boards, calendars and notebooks to organize themselves. I am not judging–whatever floats your boat but as soon as you work with others you have to agree on some principles and/or guard rails so you can stay on the same track.

When it comes to organizing our project management work I think we tried them all. We started the company using Trello which was actually quite nice. The overview was good, the way of organizing tasks was easy to learn and take into action and updating a Trello board was fast as well. As soon as we grew we had our problems with Trello because in order to visualize work in sprints and if you want to use complexity point you have to work with Google Chrome plugins that slowed Trello down tremendously. Time to try out something new. Don’t laugh at me but we also used Jira of a short period of time. What I like about it is that it’s extremely powerful and very much suited for agile work. But it’s also very slow at some point and the way of setting permissions is an utterly mess. Why do I need to hire someone to fix software permissions for me?! Whatever we threw that in the trash. Afterwards we ended up with Notion. Our company basically runs on Notion now and Harry also wrote a post about it.

Notion for project management

Notion gives you the freedom to design it as you wish. For the kind of projects we have that is quite helpful because first every project is slightly different and second if we find something’s missing we can just add it instead of trying out a completely new project management tool.

First we had quite a complex project setup in Notion that was heavily influenced by our development requirements. We noticed that–in order to make it fit for all of our disciplines– we had to change it a bit.

A glimpse at our project setup in Notion

First of all we removed all the unnecessary clutter and ended up with what’s the most important information for us that we need to see at one glance:

  • our backlog
  • our sprint overview (if necessary)
  • our timeline (we try onroadmap.com for that these days)
  • the project’s Slack channel
  • the project’s GitHub repository
  • the project’s Figma file
  • the launch date
  • the staging environment
  • the production environment
  • the team
Scrolling down the project board, you’ll see the backlog (currently empty 😅)

Then we have an embedded backlog view, so every team member just needs to look at that for clarity about their upcoming tasks. At the bottom we have some Quicklinks for mostly financial and project management related stuff.

  • project meeting notes (really handy)
  • estimation links
  • proposal links
  • budget overview in Harvest
  • the Harvest job number (which is always equal to the project number for better navigation)

And that’s it. I know it sounds like a lot but look at the screenshots, it really isn’t and it’s all we need to run the project. We still have a project folder in Dropbox which is mostly used for contracts these days as everything else lives in web apps.

Notion for our project management team

We also organize ourselves in Notion. All the discussions we have in our project management square table meeting — it’s in Notion. All the updates we share in our project management sync — it’s in Notion. We also collect information about our project setup, how we setup proposals and invoices, how we onboard freelancers and more in Notion. But in all honesty, you have to remind people to use it from time to time. It’s easy to forget that all the information is already there.

A quick look at our Notion board / How we organize ourselves

Forecasting in Harvest

Another tool we use is Harvest and Harvest Forecast. In Forecast we plan the whole team to see who’s working on what and to realize when a team member is overbooked.

A messy Forecast at your service

With Forecast we have a love/hate relationship I’d say. There are probably better Forecasting tools out there but we haven’t found a tool that is so much better that it justifies the effort to move everything there. The thing is, when you use Forecast on a weekly basis and force everyone to keep it up to date, you’re good to go. Harvest itself we use for writing proposals and invoices. Again there are probably better tools out there. The design of our invoices could be improved but it does the trick and the project overviews give our project managers a very good idea on the financial health of a project.

Roadmaps

If someone working at Notion stumbles over this post — can we have access to your roadmap feature now please!? Seriously roadmaps is the missing feature in Notion. With roadmaps especially bigger projects would be so much easier to handle. You cannot communicate a Forecast to a client (because it’s a mess). You can also not communicate a roadmap only sharing the dates of the beginning and end of a sprint.

Onroadmap.com makes roadmaps look like cool roadmaps

We need to visualize projects in easy digestible roadmaps that are easy and maybe also fun to look at. That’s why we recently took onroadmap.com for a spin. First impression: really nice. Second impression: if we could somehow integrate our Notion tasks it would be even easier … Well, well, well … There’s always something missing and we are careful with tools which promise to solve everything for you. Looking at you, Notion! In summary: we’ll definitely try to use onroadmap.com in more project scenarios as they are quick to setup, easy to maintain and much easier to look at than a Keynote presentation.

And that’s basically how we organize and structure our project management work. If you have questions about how we use some tools specifically, please write an email or ask me on Twitter if you like or even better, ask our project managers (you can find them in our wiki). And if we can support you in organizing your company or your work, we’d be happy to hear from you! Thank you for making it this far!

This is the third post of our series “How we do project management at diesdas”. You can also read How we understand project management at diesdas and How we do project management at diesdas to complete the picture.

diesdas.digital is a studio for strategy, design and code in Berlin, featuring a multidisciplinary team of designers, developers and strategists. We create tailor-made digital solutions with an agile mindset and a smile on our faces. Let’s work together!

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